Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV

Renovating …it’s a scary process, especially if you’ve never done it before.  There’s a lot on the line…time, money, mess, uncertainty (did I mention time and money?)  If you watch HGTV it goes something like this…

Dating phase: Client, designer and contractor meet and get to know each other.  Concepts are developed.  Everyone is starry eyed and the possibilities seem endless. There’s attraction in the air.

Honeymoon phase:  The design process begins.  Space planning is moving along nicely, materials and fixtures are touched and felt. The concept is starting to become a reality.  The love is tangible.

Reality phase:  Two ugly words rear their ugly heads…Budget and timelines.  “It’s going to cost how much and take how long???”  Hard decisions and compromises are made.  The frustration begins.

Reality phase 2: Construction starts.  Some of it goes smoothly, but some does not (there’s always an unexpected gem hiding in the walls, or under the floor, or in the ceiling.)  More money, more time, more compromises.  Someone might get strangled.

Joy:  The project is complete.  It took some turns along the way, but its good (actually its great), and the bumps & hiccups resulted in alternative creative solutions.  Everyone is proud of a job well done and feeling the love again.

The funny thing is that this process is actually pretty accurate (it’s really the only part of HGTV renos that reflect reality).  Construction projects run the gamut of emotions and they are NEVER perfect.  But there are ways to prepare.  Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.
  2. Determine very clear goals for the end result. For example, is the goal to “lipstick the pig”, or is it to create a customized space, or something in between?  All are valid options, but know what you’re shooting for, and make sure all decision makers are on the same page.
  3. Set realistic expectations for time and budget.  On HGTV you can do just about anything over the weekend and for $500.00.  NOT TRUE! (Unless the extent of your project is building an IKEA dresser.)  Your responses to #’s 1 & 2 will have a direct correlation to #3.

In my next blog posts, I’ll dig deeper into 1-3, offering some insight into understanding scope, setting goals and determining a budget and timelines.

Until then, happy renovation preparation!


tracy dyck photo

Would You Take Out Your Own Appendix?


I was having a conversation the other day with my sister-in-law; a physician working in a rural community where their clinic is over capacity.  She is on the committee that is looking to renovate the facility and has been given the responsibility of compiling ideas for the new design.

My first reaction was (and I’m thinking this in my head):

“This is crazy!!  Why is a doctor trying to redesign a clinic??  I wouldn’t take out my own appendix!”

My more diplomatic response was “have you considered bringing in professional designers to look at your space?”

The conversation made me think about the ‘Do It Yourself’ society we live in.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like to DIY with the best of them (I’m a Mennonite girl, so if I can get it done without outside help, I can save some money…), but I’ve slowly come to realize the value in utilizing the expertise of others.  The reason why we have experts is because the problems we need to resolve are more complex than we realize.  And often the result of doing it wrong results in wasting our time, money and feeling frustrated when the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for.

The built environment, for example, is extremely complex.  There are physical, social, emotional and mental elements to consider. Not everything is tangible, but in the end the intangible has a massive effect.  How will people use the space?  How do you want them to move through it?  How do you delineate public and private areas? How do you accommodate for individuals with physical limitations? How do you want to direct behavior? How do you want people to feel? How do you design spaces that contribute to wellness?  Believe it or not, these are some of the questions that professional designers ask when starting a new project.  And if we’re not, then we should be.

Food for thought.


tracy dyck photo

“A great building must begin with the immeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasured.”

– Louis Kahn

‘Resimmercial’ Design


This past June I attended my first NeoCon, a commercial interior design trade show that takes place each year at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Illinois. It was an experience filled with inspiration, new ideas, and hours and hours of walking!!  As I wandered through the 4.2 million square feet of showrooms, I discovered that there was an interesting theme taking place.  It was this concept of combining residential + commercial design elements within the workplace.

Referred to as  ‘Resimmercial’, this idea incorporates the familiar, comfortable elements of home into the office, addressing our growing need for comfort and well-being in the workplace.

Here are the key features of ‘Resimmercial design’:




1 – Warm & soft materials & finishes. Wood, wood and more wood! From workstations &  desks to boardroom tables and accent furniture wood was being used everywhere to warm up the office interior. Other warm & inviting materials commonly used were felt, cork, and even velvet!


img_4135  img_3373  img_3273  img_3272


2 – Casual, collaborative spaces. The idea of taking the home office out of your home and bringing you back into commercial space. Done with casual, relaxed seating areas and interactive collaborative spaces. Many of the vendors also showcased the concept of providing space for amenities within the office. I saw many coffee lounges, and social spaces that resemble your living room.





3 – Residentially inspired furniture pieces. Say goodbye to square edges and harsh corners, the ‘Resimmercial’ office has lots of tables with curved edges, and meeting room furniture that looks like it belongs in your dining room. Tired of the typical metal filing cabinets and metal shelving, why not introduce office storage that looks like it belongs in your living room?


img_3383  img_3380


So if you looking to warm up your office interior this winter consider introducing some of these ‘Resimmercial’ design elements into your workspace. Let’s make your office feel more like home.


Janine photo

Get Me Out of the Office!

Sometimes you just need to grab your laptop, a cozy sweater and a bottle of wine, and get the heck out of dodge!


That’s just what we’ve done. My lovely ladies and I spent a few days last week at a cottage out on Lake Winnipeg, taking time away from the office to…well honestly…get some work done! Some things just don’t seem to accomplished when you’re sitting at your desk downtown where the ‘dings’ of your email and phone are never ending. So we decided to pack our bags and get out into nature for a few days.


Road Trip!


We so often talk about how we can improve our clients’ spaces by integrating more daylight, by bringing that natural environment into their living or working spaces, and by really just connecting them to nature. Honestly, these past few days have been a testament to these intentions. The moment we arrived at our cozy little cottage, and stepped out onto the dock, we were greeted with the most beautiful view of the lake and forest. We took a deep breath of fresh, crisp, November air and all of a sudden, we were one with nature.

So why do we as humans want…no, CRAVE this connection to the outdoors? Well, essentially we’re biologically pre-programmed to seek connections with the outdoors and other forms of life. It’s intuitive. It’s how we started out on this planet and it’s how we were meant to live. Here are a few benefits from connecting with nature…

  1. people are healthier, happier and perhaps even smarter and more creative
  2. children with ADD, asthma, obesity and stress feel positive effects
  3. adults in workplaces connected to nature are more productive, healthy and creative
  4. patients in hospitals that have a view to the outdoors have faster healing times

These few days away, sitting on the edge of the water, surrounded by the beauty of nature, has sure made us a lot more relaxed, focused, creative and seriously productive!

Other than work, we had loads of fun just getting away from our daily grind. Took walks in the woods (I totally thought Tracy was taking us out there to … maybe… streamline the company…). Tried to make a fire…with wet logs…and an old issue of Cottage Life from 2004. It did not go well. Don’t ask Carrie. Or ask where the bottle of paint thinner ended up.

Here are some of the highlights of the 1st Annual S3 Retreat!













Get outdoors people, it’s good for the soul!

Until the next S3 Retreat!


Elaina S3



What is a Creative Idea Worth?

I’m going to share something personal with you:

I am always curious. Always.

I’m essentially the adult-version of that toddler that keeps asking: why? WHY? I can’t help it, I’ve always been this curious individual that is constantly seeking to learn more. At the end of the day, if I’ve learned something new, tried something new, taught someone something new, I’m thrilled! So why am I telling you this? (See I’m even being curious for you).

There are a few reasons why I decided to dust of the writing powers today.

  1. I want to tell you about this amazing and inspirational speaker that truly hit home with me recently.
  2. I want to inspire you to dig deep and find that childlike curiosity that’s hiding inside of you.
  3. I want to ignite a conversation about what a creative idea is worth to you.

So here’s how we’re going to roll today. I need you to follow the ‘rules’ of this post. Read the paragraphs in order and watch the videos before moving onto the next paragraph. Actually, listen to this song while reading it. I put it on when I want to feel inspired again. Do it now…I’ll wait. This is not to sound harsh, but rather my attempt to create a theatrical, emotional + inspiring experience while you read my post.

Here we go:

Last November, I attended the IES Annual Conference again. I always meet so many wonderful people there and hear so many inspiring speakers (more on this in another post). One in particular, really tugged at the heart strings. He was our first Keynote Speaker and was essentially the ‘kickoff party’ to our conference. Let me tell you, he got me! He got all of us! His name is Erik Wahl and he’s an artist, author and entrepreneur. To sum up, he’s amazing and kind of a big deal.

Watch this video, you’ll understand why!

Erik Wahl – Graffiti Artist Video

erik wahl

This guy really hit a home run. His sense of playfulness, his courage to break the rules and his determination to never give up on achieving goals are truly what inspired me to re-evaluate what it is I’m doing with Lighting Design here in Winnipeg.

In his presentation, he talks about post-breakfast doodling, and taking meeting notes with Crayola crayons to re-ignite that childlike creative that’s within us all! When we were all young, we really had no worries about being curious, saying what we thought, trying something new…we lacked fear! And as we grew older we found ourselves suppressing this inner-genius of ours. Why? (See. I did it again). Because of Fear. Wahl calls FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real and it’s crippling our creativity and our risk-taking. He goes on to urge us to break outside business as usual. In my opinion, I think the worst thing you can hear from someone is “Well, we’ve always done it that way, so…”. It’s time to start looking at things from different perspectives and start accessing emotion, because that is  when we’ll truly break through our creative vulnerability.

Ok, now watch this video:

UNTHINK Rediscover your Creative Genius Video


“Genius lives when wonder wakes”.

Yes! Yes it does.

Working in a creative field that’s also based in science, I’m often finding myself tugging back and forth between these two realms. I will admit, however, that I am at my most successful when I unleash my creative childlike genius and figure out how to bring it into this world we called ‘reality’.

When I talk about lighting, I often talk about the emotional experience. I can’t say it enough, lighting creates environments, lighting creates experiences! This unleashed creativity is where I learn to translate my breakthrough ideas into projects. If we look at old school lighting, it looks at light in one dimension (ie let’s bring light into a space). If we look at where it’s going now, it’s using light as an emotional experience. This is the space between the rules, my friends! After all, it’s the emotional experiences in life that are the most memorable and pleasurable to us. Allow me to not be afraid to fail by trying this new approach to lighting design. What I may do with these failures is going to define the future of this industry…at least in some small way (bigger if I can help it).

This all brings me to the question at hand…What is a Creative Idea Worth? Let me tell you a quick story. Wahl’s presentation was not only laced with inspirational words, but he entertained us by painting on canvases right in front of us. Painting these amazing drawings of popular figures we all recognize. At the end of it all, he chose someone at random from the audience to take one home. He then proceeded to offer this person $100 in exchange to get his painting back. The audience member graciously declined as they really wanted to keep the painting. So why did this random stranger want to keep a canvas that had an image of John Lennon on it? Would this not be something he could get a poster print of at the corner shop for $10? Probably. It’s about the experience, my friends. Every time this person looks at this painting, he’ll be reminded of the positive, creative and inspiring experience he had with Erik Wahl.


So I ask you this. When it comes to design, whether it be lighting or interior (or any other kind to be honest), what is a creative idea worth to you?

Remember, when we as designers present you with a concept, it’s not something that has been pumped out from the ‘design machine’, it’s tailored to you and to how you’ll be using and feeling the space. We want to create an emotional experience for you that will make you want to ‘keep that painting rather than take the $100 bill”. We want to unleash our childlike creative genius on your project so that you’ll get something you’ll never forget. Think about it next time you’re faced with the question of how much someone’s creative idea worth to you.

Now watch this video and tell me that without imagination, we wouldn’t have some of the best things around us in the world today. Imagine.



That’s my inspirational speech for 2016.

Stay young, stay hungry and stay foolish!


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina